Hendon are held by the Police on FA Cup day
HENDON’S FA Cup hopes were left hanging in the balance after they did everything but penetrate a resolute Met Police cordon in their goaless draw at Vale Farm, writes Ben Kosky.
The Greens were on top for virtually the entire game and hit the bar twice, but could not find a way past goalkeeper Mo Maan, even though the visitors were reduced to 10 men for the final quarter of an hour.
But the dismissal of Ron Edwards, for bringing down Hendon striker Belal Aite-Ouakrim, merely reinforced the Police’s determination to put men behind the ball and cling on for a replay.
It had seemed only a matter of time before Gary McCann’s side snatched the lead, with the pace and movement of Aite-Ouakrim and Aaron Morgan, plus the trickery of Lubomir Guentchev, giving the visitors plenty to ponder.
Craig Vargas was decidedly unlucky not to score as he timed and directed his header from a corner impeccably, only for the ball to bounce down off the bar and be scrambled clear.
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However, Hendon carved out few clear chances during the rest of the first half, with Guentchev, Lee O’Leary and Aite-Ouakrim all way off target, while Met Police only really threatened from set-pieces.
And the woodwork came to the visitors’ rescue again three minutes before the interval, as Casey Maclaren headed Morgan’s cross against the bar with Maan exposed.
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The keeper – a key player in the Police’s replay victory over Wealdstone in the previous round – came into his own either side of the break with a flying save from Morgan and then a block with his legs to deny Guentchev.
While the Greens stuck firmly to their task, they were still vulnerable to the counter-attack, and Berkeley Laurencin was finally called into action in the 74th minute, flinging out an arm to tip Craig Brown’s glancing header over.
That was the last time Met Police ventured forward in earnest, with Edwards ordered off soon afterwards after fouling Aite-Ouakrim as he galloped onto Vargas’ ball out of defence.
But the resulting free-kick came to nothing and, although green shirts flooded the Met Police penalty area in the closing stages, nor did any other openings Hendon could fashion.
Maan foiled O’Leary with another low block and, although he was unable to hold Casey Maclaren’s daisy-cutter in injury time, Vernon Francis reached the loose ball before any Hendon player could pounce.
Hendon: Laurencin; Coke, Parker, Vargas, Cousins; K Maclaren, C Maclaren, O’Leary, Guentchev (Peacock 82); Aite-Ouakrim Morgan (Dyer 90).
? The replay was scheduled for last night with the prize an away match to Chelmsford City in the first round.